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Nagano and Yamanouchi, Japan, February 2014

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

From our base in Matsumoto [], we made our way by train by train to Nagano [] bus and then on foot through the snow to Jigokudani Monkey Park [] in Yamanouchi []! To see the world-famous snow monkeys, lounging in the Onsen:


It was bitterly cold, around -10° C. And very atmospheric with steam rising from the various hot springs along “Hell’s Valley” (Jigokudani). our first sighting of the monkeys was foraging in the snow near the visitors center at the apex of a, very slippery, two kilometer walk through the woods. Despite the cold and snow there were a number of visitors, many with impressively large camera’s and zoom lenses determined to get great closeup shots of the monkeys. After taking our turn with the monkeys near the visitors center we walked on to the actual hot spring. It was a bit of a letdown when we first saw it:


It’s a man-made bath for the monkeys. Also according to Wikipedia the monkeys only started to use the onsen in 1963. Proof of evolution? I think so. I guess the nice setup for photographers was made later in support of the Japanese obsession with photography.

We also visited Nagano itself, though this was on a different day due to how short the days were. We didn’t do much since it was the off-season, just wandered around Zenkō-ji and its surrounding building. Including at least two trips through the pitch black, and freezing cold, corridor under the main hall in an apparently fruitless attempt to gain entrance to paradise.


Matsumoto, Japan, February 2014

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

10 years ago, in March 2004 I visited Japan for the first time. One of the stop on that trip was Matsumoto, in Nagano prefecture. We didn’t spend much time there – one afternoon and the night. I really only remember three things from my first visit:


  1. How cold it was in Matsumoto-jo, one of the few original castles still standing in Japan, where we had to remove our shoes as we walked up to the top, everyone had frozen toes and it was snowing when we left
  2. A used Kimono shop on Nakamachi-dori, where we spent a long time browsing the beautiful kimonos
  3. The sound of the recorded woman announcing arrival in Matsumoto on the train as it pulled into the station

Ten years later, in February 2014, I visited Matsumoto again. The goal was to go somewhere where my daughters could see snow. Turns out Matsumoto was not really a good choice as it apparently does not get that much snow. We used Matsumoto as a home base to and went to Kambayashi Onsen in Yamanouchi — famous for its snow monkeys as well as seeing Zenkō-ji in Nagano and taking a bus to Hida-Takayama for an afternoon.

Matsumoto is an even quieter town than I remember and the early sunsets a late sunrises of winter made it seem ever quieter. But some things don’t change:

Even though it was quiet, we all enjoyed ourselves; my wife had a good time eating, including horse sashimi and more soba then you can shake a limp buckwheat noodle at. We took advantage of my mom and sister being with us to leave my daughters with them in the evening so we could go out and try different restaurants since my wife is really the only adventurous foodie in the group. My daughters enjoyed the soba too but their favorite things were ham from Lawson’s and the popcorn from 7-11.


As for snow, we got some in Yamanouchi when we hiked up to see the snow monkeys and we drove through a lot on the way to Hida-Takayama but none in Matsumoto until the last morning. On the last morning we got a lot of snow we had to catch a train at 10AM but we know the forecast was for early snow. So I woke up at 5AM and sure enough there was about 10cm on the ground. I woke Tori up and we walked to the castle to take some photos and play for an hour or so.

Gold Coast, Australia, June 2013

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013



In June the family took a short holiday to the Gold Coast in Australia. Took the kids to Sea World and Movie World and whale watching. Not much for photo taking but the whales and the beach sunset on the first day were great.

During the whale watching we got to follow a few whales for almost 45 minutes, and we saw dolphins along side the whales and even a sea turtle. Unfortunately we didn’t see the whales breach but lots of surfacing for air – blow holes, humps and tails.

The beach was amazing, even in the southern winter the water was fairly warm – warmer than the air in fact. We played in the surf a lot, I think that Tori may have enjoyed the time at the beach better than anything else. The beach as Surfers Paradise — and in fact the whole town — reminded me of Gulf Shores and my granddads beach house when I was a kid. Wonderful shallow surf you could wade out in for a long way, sugar sand and all. It just had that small beach town feel, not like the mega tourist beach towns. I will have to take Tori and Livi back again just to play on the beach.

Tel Aviv, Israel, May 2013

Friday, October 18th, 2013


I spent some time at work in Tel Aviv in May. Not much extra time for sightseeing or photography but I managed one evening walking along the beach. Israel seems to have amazing sunsets daily.

Prague, Czech Republic, November 2012

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013




I went to Prague for work. Just a few days for a conference, but I managed to slip out for an afternoon before the conference started and a morning before I flew off.

Prague is a beautiful city, and luckily the conference was in a hotel just outside the old town, so that even though I didn’t get much time I was able to walk around the most famous sites. It was an easy, 15 minute, walk from the hotel to old town square and the Astronomical Clock [] — so hard to read, that’s why they had to put ‘normal’ clocks on both sides of it. When I stopped at the clock there were people talking wedding photos, and not just one couple, but several — one in a horse-drawn carriage and one in a fancy car. And then there was these girls sitting outside the old town hall [] with their balloons looking sad, or maybe just exhausted.

A bit further from the hotel, down the cobblestone streets I visited Charles Bridge [], unfortunately it was a hazy week and I was never able to get a good shot of Prague Castle [] and St. Vitus Cathedral [] up on the hill overlooking the bridge and river.

On the other side of the bridge I visited the Lennon Wall []. A colorful experience. The wall is interesting mostly in that it is an organic thing, not planned by anyone.

Later I made it up the hill to Prague Castle but only had time to see St. Vitus and take a few shots of Prague’s bridges over the Vltava River. The haze however was horrible, so the only shot that was really worth the hike up the hill was the one of St. Vitus, where the haze looks more like morning fog.

That was the extent of my sightseeing. I didn’t have time to really explore the old city’s sights and between jet lag, the conference and normal work I didn’t even get to go to any of the Jazz bars or pubs. The closest I got was a Pilsner with some of my coworkers one night in the hotel bar. Sad really.